Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment is covered by both the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1993.

If a person can’t resolve the problem with their employer they have a choice as to which way they can go to take the matter further (they can’t do both).

If the employee wants to raise a personal grievance under the Employment Relations Act 2000, they have 90 days to raise it. 

If they want to complain under the Human Rights Act 1993, they have 12 months after the incident to make their complaint to the Human Rights Commission.

If you need support in the workplace because you are being sexually harassed then contact us straight away. We can arrange an employment advocate to talk through your options with you.

An employee is considered to be sexually harassed if their employer (or a representative of their employer)

Asks an employee for sex, sexual contact or any other sexual activity, with a:

  • Promise (it can be implied) of better treatment in their workplace., or

  • A threat (it can be implied) either about worse treatment or current / future job security

Subjects (either directly or indirectly) the employee to behaviour that they don’t want or is offensive to them (even if they don’t let the employer or the employer’s representative know this) and which either is so significant or repeated that it has a negative effect on their employment, job performance or job satisfaction:

  • By using (in writing or speaking) sexual language, or

  • By using sexual visual material (eg pictures, diagrams, photos, videos, etc), or

  • Through physical  sexual behaviour

Sexual harassment can happen to and be caused by anyone regardless of their gender. It can be subtle or obvious.

Whether a behaviour was sexual harassment is viewed objectively, considering whether the conduct was unwelcome or offensive, from the perspective of the complainant.

Examples of sexual harassment:

  • Personally sexually offensive comments

  • Sexual or smutty jokes

  • Unwanted comments or teasing about a person’s sexual activities or private life

  • Offensive hand or body gestures

  • Physical contact such as patting, pinching or touching

  • Provocative posters with a sexual connotation

  • Persistent and unwelcome social invitations (or telephone calls or emails) from workmates at work or at home

  • Hints or promises of preferential treatment in exchange for sex

  • Threats of differential treatment if sexual activity is not offered

  • Sexual assault and rape.

Sexual harassment by customers or clients of the employee’s employer

This harassment is also covered by the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1993. 

If a customer or client of the employer subjects an employee such behaviour, then the employee should complain to their employer in writing. 

The employer must investigate the claim. If they decide that the behaviour has happened, they must then take relevant steps that are practicable to prevent it happening again. 

If the harassment continues to happen, and the employer hasn’t taken the practicable steps then:

  • The employer will be in breach of the Human Rights Act 1993 and the employee may complain to the Human Rights Commission, or

  • The employee may raise a personal grievance.